Friday, July 13, 2007

Borders Books, Tintin and Freedom From Offense

LONDON - Borders is removing "Tintin in the Congo" from the children's section of its British stores, after a customer complained the comic work was racist, the company said Thursday. David Enright, a London-based human-rights lawyer, was shopping at Borders with his family when he came upon the book, first published in 1931, and opened it to find what he characterized as racist abuse.
In it, Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi depicts the white hero's adventures in the Congo against the backdrop of an idiotic, chimpanzee-like native population that eventually comes to worship Tintin — and his dog — as gods.
Remi later said he was embarrassed by the book, and some editions have had the more objectionable content removed. When an unexpurgated edition was brought out in Britain in 2005, it came wrapped with a warning and was written with a forward explaining the work's colonial context.
Enright, who said he first complained to Borders and Britain's Commission for Racial Equality about a month ago, argued such a warning was not enough. "Whether it's got a piece of flimsy paper around it or not, it's irrelevant, it's in the children's section," he said, adding that he felt the book should be treated like pornography or
anti-Semitic literature and not displayed in mainstream bookstores at all.

While I'm sure Enright's sense of outrage and offense are genuine, I would suggest to him that it is easier to wear slippers than to carpet the world and what may be offense to him may be instructive, in a positive way, to another.
It has been years since I've read it, but I seem to remember the "N" word every so often in Huckleberry Finn. Would Enright suggest that this text be removed from mainstream bookstores as well? Probably and he would be just as wrong. Mark Twain, whose Hartford home is literally 2 miles down Farmington Avenue from where I write, was no racist, quite the contrary in fact.
We must guard against genuine erosion's in liberty such as having a book removed because it offends someone. I wonder how Enright would feel if Jerry Falwell joined him and asked that they remove The Necronomicon as well, even though it doesn't really exist?

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